Posts By: Midwest AgCenter

How Precision Agriculture Creates Profit, Simply Put

The terms Precision Ag, GPS, or New Technology can sometimes be scary to producers, especially if they have dabbled in this area previously only to experience breakdowns, delays, or just plain confusion on how to operate the equipment. Producers shouldn’t feel alone in their concerns, as sometimes the most intelligent and experienced technicians get stumped figuring out why all this “precision” sometimes doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Even though I haven’t found a perfect system that works seamlessly for every application, I have seen through my work as an agronomist that the customers who utilize technology are often the customers that see the best returns from their crop inputs. In fact, the reason I turned my focus toward Precision Ag sales and support was because I realized the greatest value for my customers was in using new technology to better manage their farm operations.

So how does using this technology create profit? Simply put, technology helps us place the right crop inputs at the right spot, at the right quantity, and at the right time. In conventional farming, operators generally over-apply inputs 75% of the time and under-apply 25% of the time. By using information obtained by soil sampling, yield monitoring, GPS mapping, and running specialized crop sensors, we can much more accurately determine a field’s needs on an acre by acre basis. As we become more accurate with deciding how much inputs we need for each particular GPS location, we will inevitably reduce costs and increase yield.

Let’s look at one example. In conventional farming, a producer puts a flat rate of 9-23-30 fertilizer at 200 pounds per acre for a cost of $45 per acre. If soil fertility levels show that he’s over applying an average of 10% on 75% of the acres, and under-applying an average of 10% on 25% of his acres, on a 1000 acres that producer would have spent $2250 over what was needed. In the areas that were under-applied and deficient that producer could very likely see a 20% yield drag, which at $3.00 corn on fields that average 170 bushel, this yield loss would be $25,500. The extra cost to implement grid sampling and variable rate spreading (vs flat rate) on 1000 acres would be $11,000, which would be a gross return of $16,750 the first year, or $16.75 per acre. The following years he would potentially benefit by $25.75 per acre.

The above scenario just covers one input. If you apply similar figures to seed, nitrogen, chemicals, and tillage, a producer can see very significant gains in both savings and increased yield. Several state universities have calculators to help producers determine the returns on using precision ag based on the size of their operation and their current management style. We at WS AG Center can help with your Precision Ag needs, whether it’s helping with aftermarket hardware, or managing data, or making prescription maps, or custom applying variable rate recommendations. We have the experience and capabilities to help you successfully implement Precision Ag in your production.

News & Views

As the 2015 growing season comes to a close and we look forward to the 2016 season, we need to look at some of the issues facing today’s crop producers. For the record, the ethanol industry is alive and well with almost half of our corn production going to produce ethanol. To use an old saying, its demise so far has been greatly exaggerated and is responsible for nearly 4 of every 10 bushels of corn being used each year. Even with lower gas prices, which means more people are traveling to take advantage of the lowest prices since 2008, which translates to more gas consumption. Ethanol has maintained a narrow trading range and the inventory has gone from burdensome levels to manageable levels. Also, the US exported more ethanol this year than in the past with exports around 6% over last year. It should be noted that production of ethanol started the 2015 crop year strong and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change much as we start 2016.

The bottom line is that us in southwest Wisconsin, have to feel blessed because of our above average crop production. Even selling at lower commodity prices, it’s profitable because of the high yields we’ve attained. So in moving forward, we need to remember a key factor we can control (if the weather cooperates) is that we need a high level of production which also translates into maximizing the yield potential of each acre farmed, therefore making it profitable. We can’t cut back on crop inputs because we are taking such large yields off each acre, but we need to make the right input decisions to maximize profitability. With large yields comes nutrient depletion. Which is turn needs to be replenished to maximize future potential. We at WS Ag Center have the agronomy and precision team to help you maximize your crop production goals. Feel free to contact us for a successful and profitable 2016 production and marketing season. We also want to wish each of you a blessed and Merry Christmas and hope to see you at this years Annual Holiday Banquet on December 16th.

Convenient and Reliable Financing

We understand at WS Ag Center that having convenient and reliable financing is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle for your farming operation. Our agronomist can work with your fixed cost per acre. With our new technology department we will make sure your every detail is addressed. If you are looking for maintenance or future growth, we are here for you. WS Ag Center offers a variety of financial plans with competitive interest rates, flexible payment capabilities and can partner with other companies that offer low interest arrangements. We look forward to helping your farm and family with your financial needs.

Seed & Seed Tenders

WS Ag Center has a great variety of seed to offer our growers including NK Corn, Soybeans, Wheat and Alfalfa. We also offer AgriGold Corn and a wide variety of grasses and cover crops including custom blends for deer plots or government programs. WS Ag now offers seed tenders to our customers to help with loading and handling the seed. Please contact WS Ag if you have any seed questions or interests. We can also offer early order discounts and some financing offers throughout our season.

Prepare for 2016

I realize it’s hard for most of us to believe, but the end of the year is here! As we reflect on last year, I believe all of us were surprised by the yields of both corn and soybeans. As we look forward to next year I am very optimistic what it will bring us. The recent rain fall has replenished the soil with moisture for starting our 2016 growing season.

As we are moving into a new growing season, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s inputs. Pre-pay time of year can be the perfect opportunity to take advantage of early season discounts on seed, chemicals and fertilizer. Fertilizer prices have softened some from last year, while, seed and chemical prices seem to be holding steady. We have financing options that are available to fit everyone’s needs, there are many low interest chemical & seeds financing offers available as well to help you lock in the best pricing opportunities. WS Ag is committed to helping all farmers achieve maximum profitability from their farming operations. Please contact your local WS Ag sales rep to discuss all options available this coming growing season.

Keys to Successful Weaning

With fall quickly approaching, it is getting to be the time of the year that most beef farmers are beginning to prepare for weaning beef calves. It is important that calves are weaned correctly in a low stress environment. Low stress weaning will help minimize weight loss and time off feed. By accomplishing this, we will see better overall Average Daily Gains, as well as a lower feed to gain conversion. Low stress weaning is achieved by weaning calves at a slow and calm rate. I prefer bringing cattle up with a bale on the tractor to prevent chasing them. Calves are sorted out, castrated, dewormed, and vaccinated. In our herd, tattoos are given to registerable cattle as well. We try to do all of this moving slowly, with minimal yelling or noise. Cows are then moved back to pasture, while the calves remain in the feed yard. I always make sure to have a feed identical to the creep they were on waiting in the bunks, as well as good hay in the feeder, free choice mineral, and the Vitaferm stress tubs.

These stress tubs are sweet to the taste and loaded with prebiotics. These probiotics are in the form of Amaferm. The licking of these tubs stimulates rumen activity in these calves, causing them to go back on feed quicker. Since I started this method, rarely do I see cattle go off feed. I suggest keeping cattle on the same diet for at least a week before gradually transitioning them into their grower or finisher diets.

I often recommend during this transition topdressing a product by Purina call PreCon. It can be medicated and is very palatable. It minimizes cattle going off feed during the diet transition. I prefer weaning cattle around 500 pounds, in cooler weather. This helps minimize the heat stress and helps promote healthier cattle. According to research done by Colorado State University and Kansas State University, cattle that are weaned in a low stress method at lower weights like 500 pounds creates better marbling, thus resulting in higher carcass yields and grades.

Animal Immunity Protection

Are you sneezing, coughing and have a red nose? As the weather continues to get colder it seems chances increase that we may at some point deal with a cold or flu. In addition the holiday season tends to increase stress levels for some. We try to avoid this by increasing vitamin or mineral supplements, drinking more water or for some a preventive shot. We know that staying healthy means we are more productive and happier.

Our animals, whether commercial or companion are not immune to the many sources of stress, bacteria and viruses. Most are very good at hiding symptoms of their stress or early symptoms of viral distress due to their survival instinct. The question is how we help them with preventive measures to ensure their wellbeing and save ourselves costly veterinarian bills. We know there are many solutions on the market for specific situations especially when symptoms present themselves. This could become more of a challenge however as we look ahead to the Veterinarian Feed Directive.

Did you know that today there is a more natural source of immune support that can also help?

May I introduce, BoVantage! Your animals may benefit from BoVantage because it can, provide immune system support, help to combat stress, promote a healthy rumen environment, reduce somatic cell count and more. Kent Nutrition group has conducted several specific studies at our real world research facility to support these findings. Find comfort in knowing that we actually add this product into our milk replacers, calf starters, some dairy and beef feeds and more. Only Kent Dealers can source BoVantage through us. WS Ag Center, Inc. will be more than happy to discuss how BoVantage can help your animals and provide the additional needed immune support that like us is a benefit worth having.

Importance of Condition Scoring Beef Cows

The calving season is rapidly approaching, so it’s time to evaluate the body condition of your beef cows. Beef cow body condition scores describe the relative fat cover of a cow using the 9 point scale (1-9, 1 being the thinnest and 9 being the fattest) to evaluate the nutritional needs of your herd as we prepare for winter feeding strategies.

Cow body condition score is directly related to reproductive efficiency. Cows that are on the bottom 1/3 of this scale (cows that are thinner than usual) will have a tougher time breeding back because of the lack of body fat reserves to pull from during this time of negative energy balance due to raising her calf. First calf heifers also struggle with breed back from time to time because they have more nutritional needs because they are still growing while they are feeding their calves

We have high energy lick tubs available from Kent, Purina and Hubbard which have varying levels of protein and energy and mineral supplementation as well. These tubs have been a very effective, not to mention simple to use, management tool to help maintain body condition on your cows and heifers. Call us or stop in to discuss feeding strategies going into the upcoming calving season to ensure a successful calving season and an efficient breeding season.